With thankfulness in the air, given that Thanksgiving is tomorrow, I feel a push to make this a theme of my daily blog post (I have three blogs and write something for one of them each day.)
I don't want to run through a litany of all the things in my life that I'm thankful for. That's boring, and I'd end up feeling that to balance things out, I should also mention all the things in my life that I'm not thankful for.
Which also would be boring. So here's one short, simple moment of thankfulness that happened to me this afternoon.
Whenever I go to our athletic club, almost always three times a week, I see an elderly man who is there about the same time I am. When our paths cross in a machine circuit training weight room, I say hello to him. And that's basically been the extent of our interactions for quite a few years.
Sometime this year I noticed that a friend was accompanying him during his workouts. I assumed this was because the elderly man (meaning, he looked quite a bit older than me -- I'm 75) couldn't drive any more.
Today the elderly man, whose name I don't know, had gone into the cardio/aerobic room to ride a stationary bike while I and a few others, including his friend, were still in the weight room.
I overheard part of a conversation between an older woman and the man's friend. The woman was asking about the elderly man. I thought I heard the friend say, "He's 98." Wow, I thought, is that really correct? He looks much younger to me.
Becoming part of the conversation, I asked the friend if I'd heard correctly. "Yes, he's 98. And in good shape. Very sharp mentally." He went on to tell us some things about the elderly man.
"He served in the Pacific during World War II. While there he got a disease. Doctors told him to exercise every day. He's kept that up his entire life. He comes to the club every day. He used to work for a state agency. He walked to work every day from his home."
I found this deeply inspiring. I don't like getting old, and I'm 23 freaking years younger than this man -- who uses a cane when he walks, but otherwise moves quite well.
When I went to my Tai Chi class in downtown Salem after exercising at the athletic club, I told the instructor and fellow students about the man. Warren, the instructor, said, "I hope I'm able to still do chores on our rural property when I'm 98."
Me too. Learning how old this man is, and how he's made exercise a daily part of his life for a very long time, made me feel thankful that his friend shared some information about him. He's now someone I look up to and want to emulate.
And I'm going to tell the man that next time I see him. There's unsung heroes everywhere. We just need to recognize them.